Wakefulness comes suddenly. Then, the chill. My pillow is soaked through and a light coating of amniotic fluid covers my body. Crawling out of the bed, I prepare and drink my solution, before returning to its damp warmth to await the effect setting in. Cotton-headed mugwumps are shaken loose and always the remnants of the last dream, so often the same. My mind’s getting to be like clockwork in my old age. Joan’s eyes, at the last moment, the split-second comprehension and pure terror. At least the centipede is gone.
I’m high on the junk triangle now. I will grow fat and content in my old age. I’ve spent my life chronicling junk but have, until recently, been oblivious to the fact that my biggest contribution to the body of literature on drug dependence is my own physiology — my body itself. Few with an unrepentant junk habit make it to such an advanced age. Over such an extended period, a change at the molecular level must be absolute. Beneath this pallid colloidal flesh, Lord, lies an endocrine system unlike any other. There’s not a single non-junk dependent cell left in me. No more trips to Dr. Dent. It’s the quiet life I crave. With a full transfusion on a regular basis, I could live almost indefinitely, but young blood is so expensive these days. In the Interzone, you could get a boy drained for less than the cost of a tagine with fresh meat in it. An injection of that into the base of your cock and you can use it as a coat hook (It also makes it temporarily immune to the rot). The nice young men who look after me rouse no interest. Unlike cats. Cats resonate at a different level to all other creatures. Natural born subversives and psychics. Joan was bad, Billy rough, Allen awful, but the loss of Fletch, Rushi, Spooner, Calico, Ginger, and the others is heartbreak like I’ve never experienced.
Breakfast dispatched, the solution kicks in, cerebellum engorged with blood, the receptors in my brain light up like a German boy’s asshole. A few hours lay at my feet where I don’t have enough energy to do anything. I watch the cats eat; then they follow me out onto the porch. The light is bright but there’s a cold chill in the air. The brutality of nature remains unabated. The neighbourhood is known better by the cats than anyone else. I can’t go with them. The page calls me today. When the solution wears off, I still have the love of my cats.
Who am I now? A queer who has no interest in fucking boys. A junky who hasn’t shot junk in almost a decade. There are no veins left in this ligneous, tough, old body. Organic matter rotting from the inside. I’m an old man who owns cats.
A notable advantage of methadone maintenance is that it facilitates the imbibing of alcohol. This is not the case with shooting junk. Your cells reach a saturation point where they are unable to absorb anything else. Drinking a beer leaves it rolling around in your stomach, going undigested, irritating the lining until you get sick. Not so with methadone. The junk cells behave differently. You can enjoy the benefits of both.
No soft orgasmic death for me, naked indifference; a knock on the door from my favourite sawbones, lie back — this won’t hurt a bit, and don’t forget the novocaine. Yin and Yang — like morphine and apomorphine, front and back. The best fucks are always sideways. Space is calling but the cats are ancient creatures of the earth — keeping me tethered here. Without the spirits torturing me it’s bearable at least.
I get so lost in my thoughts and scribbles I almost don’t realise that it’s coming up to four o’clock. I mix vodka and coke in a highball glass and settle back out on the porch. Butch pads along and trails between my legs, then settles on my lap. Prodigious purring, a softly vibrating fluff ball. Something shifts the crap settled at the bottom of my lungs and I begin coughing. Sputum flies and my glasses fall off the end of my nose. Butch jumps off me with feline disdain. There’s a new pain, something I don’t recognise. When Tom comes up the driveway, ready to cook my dinner, he has Joan’s look on his face at the last moment, and says “Mr. Burroughs, are you alright?”
I don’t have time to get used to it before James is here, tailed by flashing blue lights. As they bundle me into the back of the van, I’m touched by their concern, and so I assure them, “I’ll be right back.”